Vermont Vegetable and Berry News - May 15, 2006
Compiled by Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext.13

(as of May 8)

(Plainfield) Even this nice spring weather is enough to makes me anxious. Just the time of year, I guess. Greenhouse plants are looking good, not too big, not too small. Just seeding winter squash plugs, about to seed first corn plugs. Opening to the public in a week so must pick up the place a bit. Found my first TPB and clipper, so time to spray the strawberries.  No flower buds up yet, but soon. Time to set up irrigation too, as it has been on the dry side. The patch is a bit weedy, but I hope the weather will favor the berry plants soon. Getting cover crops planted keeps me from planting too much that has to be weeded, sprayed, etc.

(S. Royalton) Man was it dry. It was so dry that I couldn't see on the tractor from the dust swirling around me. Beets, radishes, carrots, spinach up and moving; Iím picking the same out of a hoophouse for the first market. When you plant stuff like that close together there sure is a lot of value per foot in a hoophouse.

(Castleton)  The earliest field crops are almost ready: radishes, baby lettuce, rhubarb and asparagus. The last rain was very helpful. We had some beautiful greenhouse lettuce that overwintered from a fall planting, been harvesting that this past month. Greenhouse greens look good. No aphids unlike last year. So far I've noticed flea beetles in the field and we have one less woodchuck to worry about.  Greenhouse heating season hasn't been too bad. With rising fuel prices we insulated the end walls this spring.

(Durham CT) Although not unheard of, we had a good frost on May 3. The tomato plants in our heated house are doing real well. The first truss has blossomed and yesterday saw the first green tomato. Because of fuel concerns, we decided to delay our first tomato planting till March 29 and it didn't seem to make a big difference in their size from last yearís. Tomatoes don't take off until the soil reaches 50 degrees. We experienced a problem with cutworms two weeks ago. They seemed to love to lop off new plants every night. Dipel DF didn't seem to work, but spinosad did. All of our late winter planted greens (late Jan/early Feb) have been harvested as of last week from the greenhouse.  Just in time for the first crop of field greens, that were planted April 3.

(W. Rutland) Bug pressure is low in the greenhouses, but grass pressure in the fields is high. Had many early sales which are always welcome, now all I need is some nice May weather to really kick off the year. Increasing my animal damage control work just to keep a good attitude.
(Plainfield NH) Much needed 1.5" of rain on April 30 but things are drying again. Cold temps last week of April beat up plasticulture berries, though the buds were in tight popcorn stage and barely emerging from crowns. Temps plummeted to 18 degrees one morning and we are now paying for not irrigating. No buds yet on regular matted row strawberries with frost again on May 7 and 8. Lots of winter injury on the summer raspberries while peach blossoms and blueberries came through the winter unharmed. First-seeded spinach, beets and sweet corn are just emerging. First onion, scallion, chard, lettuce and beet transplants are in; we will need rain or have to irrigate before we can lay plastic. Greenhouse tomatoes transplanted both in heated houses and unheated high tunnels.

For those of you using biodiesel - a note of caution. I have been using B-20 and B-100 for two years in our tractors. I got a rude surprise this week when my new M9000 Kubota tractor that we use primarily for tillage ended up in the shop for a valve job. Two valves had burned up and 4 more were on their way. The motor had less than 600 hours on it, and the shop mechanics said that Kubota does not recommend use of biofuels in the motors of their newer tractors (I should have thoroughly read the manual).  Case-IH evidently recommends using up to only 20% biofuels in its newer tractors. I talked to a couple of engineers who told me that although a motor may run fine on waste veg oil or in a 50-50 diesel mix, the injector pumps can take a beating. So we may not yet know the true cost of biodiesel in our machines.

(Madison NY)  Blueberries are mulched and pruned. Strawberries are just starting to flower and we will remove the row cover by the middle of the week. Carrots, beets and parsley root are up in record time and I missed the flame weeding.  No rain in the last two weeks has forced us to start irrigating. High tunnels are in full swing on the salad greens and carrots, cilantro, chard and onions will be ready by next weekendís market.  All of this light has the tomato flats way ahead of where they should be and we are wondering if we should gamble and plant them outside this week.  Flea beetles are out and causing the usual frustration.

(Starksboro) Great weather, but frosty. The last week in April was like sugaring weather, with hard frost every night. People are a little tentative in buying plants; I'm hoping they're just scared of the frost factor despite the fact that their gardens all dry and ready. We got just enough rain May 2nd and 3rd to carry us over. We're flip-flopping: very wet Oct. through Feb. then very dry since the beginning of March. This could last well into the summer. We haven't done any serious irrigating for 4 or 5 years. I guess we've got it coming to us.

(Stamford)  Summer and winter squash, cucumbers, and pumpkin transplants have all been started. Should be ready to set out by the end of the month. Had a frost the a.m. of May 8. Overnight lows are predicted to stay in the high 40's during the coming week. Trialing several different types of Italian zucchini and pole beans this year. Most noteworthy are the curved Anellino "shrimp" beans and a hybrid version of C. Romanesco. For winter squash we've added Sunspot, a new variety released last year. We're also trying papaya pear, a novelty type yellow summer squash. It's supposed to be a heavy producer of small pear shaped fruit. It will be interesting to see how well itís accepted at market.

(Little Compton RI)  We are learning a hard lesson about long term problems with greenhouse tomato production. Pill bugs showed up in massive numbers this season and almost destroyed the whole crop. Since we always use a fair amount of compost in our operation we have become accustom to their presence over the years and always thought them benign. This year that change radically and we noticed they were almost twice the size of one in the past. We graft our tomatoes and they first attacked the lower grafted sections. It first appeared like a scuff mark. I first thought an employee had been too rough with the plants when suckering. Then quickly there after they were eating right through to the inner core of the plants structure! When we figured out who the culprit was we gave them a hardy shot of Pyganic and found thousands belly up all over the house. One of our problems is that we use black plastic to control weeds under our tomato plants. This is providing them with a perfect breeding ground! After this season we will do that no more. At best we have them at bay. They are still feasting on the leaves that touch the ground and I can no longer get the spray where I would like. We are hoping to get some nematodes to do some control on them during the off-season. Some Quebec growers are having similar problems. With these critters we have yet another reason for looking over our shoulders.

(Editorís note, this just in from Quebec: they are experimenting a plastic collar, like a cone around the base of the tomato plants, to deter pill bugs. It is made from greenhouse polyethylene, 3inches high. The whole thing is keeping upright with Tanglefoot glue, which is a natural resin that never dries. It is important to put glue at the base of the cone to prevent the entry of pillbugs there. Pillbugs seems not able to climb on a clean plastic.)

(Grand Isle) Asparagus picking started May 3 this year. The 8 year old bed of Jersey Giant is nicely established.  The original plan was to plow up the 25 year old field of Martha Washington once the hybrid variety was established but except for the intrusion of a bit of Jerusalem artichoke, the older field is still going strong.  We will keep both fields going for a while until we decide what to do.  The winter rye is lush, peas poking up, while strawberries and sweet William made it through the winter in good shape.  We will get about 75 percent of the overwintered spinach that we planted last September. Weíve set out first broccoli and lettuce transplants but have not trusted putting corn seed in the ground yet as it is still a bit too cold. Greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers are looking top notch. We love May....everything is green and there has not been time for everything on the farm to go haywire yet. Happy 2006 season.

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